Arab News | 30 March 2010
By Mahmood Rafique
MANAMA: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who arrived on an official two-day visit to Bahrain on Tuesday, said his country wants normal and cordial ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Thailand is keen on improving ties with all GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, including Saudi Arabia, as the Thai government would take all possible steps to bring the relations back on the right track,” the premier added.
Vejjajiva, who is accompanied by a high-powered private sector delegation, also announced the signing of an agreement for establishing food security stockpiles for the GCC region located in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of Thailand Food Security Stockpile and Distribution Center and Industry with the Board of Trade of Thailand. The agreement is seen a major step forward in cementing ties between Thailand and the GCC.
The initiative is aimed at ensuring the food supply chain to the entire GCC region by using Bahrain as a gateway to reach other countries.
According to reports the GCC import bill for agricultural commodities stood at around $10 billion in 2007. At $4.9 billion, Saudi Arabia's net imports accounted for half of the GCC's total farm imports by value in 2007 and were nearly 68 percent higher than the average import bill during 2000–2004.
Vejjajiva told a press conference that his talks with the leadership covered wide range of issues and was a great opportunity to review the existing relations and how to improve them in the light of rapidly changing socio-economic scenario in the region.
His visit to Bahrain is also seen as catalyst to improving economic and political ties with the Islamic world, as Thailand is facing serious challenges in handling separatist insurgency in its largely Muslim southern provinces.
Vejjajiva met with King Hamad and Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa and discussed the ways and means to strengthen ties in economic, trade and investment sectors.
Elaborating on the MoU on Stockpiles of Food Security, Vejjajiva said Thailand was in a good position to ensure the food security of the GCC countries.
“We have a huge agriculture base and would be in position to ensure enough food stockpiles for the entire GCC. the oil-rich nations of the region can reciprocate by helping Thailand to meet its growing energy needs,” he said.
During the meetings with the private sector, the prime minister said the Thai construction sector would be key area where Bahrain can benefit.
“We are also keen in exploring avenues of co-operation in health, education and finance. Thailand is also seeking Bahrain’s expertise on Islamic bonds or sukuks,” he added.Thailand and Bahrain also signed an agreement between the private sectors of two sides paving the way for the establishment of Joint Business Council.